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2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Primer: Butler, Vandy To Challenge Arizona For Crown

But that assumes a Wildcat win over Santa Clara in the semifinals, and the Broncos gave Sean Miller's team far more than they bargained for in California last Thanksgiving.

Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.

What Is It?

The Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational (official website, or what passes for one anyway)

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From last season's primer...

This is not the Las Vegas Classic, which is organized by the same company but takes place during Christmas week. The fact that "Classic" and "Christmas" start with the same letter is the easy way to remember this.

The first record I can find of this event is the 2001 tournament won by Illinois (that field that also included Eastern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Hartford, Iowa State, Penn, Saint Louis, and Southern Illinois). In the first few editions, teams played one on-campus game before heading to Valley High School for three. By 2003, that arrangement changed two a pair of on-campus games and a pair in the desert.

In 2006, the event moved to the Orleans Arena. That November, the Kansas topped a Florida squad that was on its way to repeating as NCAA champion in a thrilling 82-80 final.

When And Where Is It?

After the four hosts' bracket schools each welcome a pair of teams from the visitors bracket between November 18th and 21st, all eight teams travel to the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas—home of the WCC and WAC Tournaments in March. Semifinals are scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, with the finals the following day, Friday, November 25th. Visitors' bracket teams play in the afternoon sessions; host bracket teams at night.

Who's Playing?

The four host schools are listed by their semifinal matchups. Note that the two Western teams are scheduled to play the nightcap on Thanksgiving.

Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt Commodores (SEC) 
vs. 
Butler Bulldogs (Big East)
Butler
Arizona
Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)
vs. 
Santa Clara Broncos (WCC)
Santa Clara

Typically, the Las Vegas Invitational arranges its visitors' bracket so the two teams that shared road opponents meet in the semifinals.

Team Road Games Semifinal Opponent
Bucknell
Bucknell Bison
(Patriot)
Butler
Vanderbilt
Norfolk State
Norfolk St
Norfolk State Spartans
(MEAC)
Vanderbilt
Butler
Bucknell
Northern Colo
Northern Colorado Bears
(Big Sky)
Santa Clara
Arizona
Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart Pioneers
(NEC)
Arizona
Santa Clara
Northern Colorado

Logos from SportsLogos.net

Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?

Arizona, Butler, and Vanderbilt all earned at-large bids to the NCAAs, but none of the three managed to hang around all that long. In fact, both the Commodores (First Four) and Wildcats (First Round), saw the Wichita State Shockers end their respective seasons. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, fell to the Virginia Cavaliers in a Second Round showdown.

Bucknell, the Patriot League's regular season champion, were upset by the ninth-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders in the tournament quarterfinals. That relegated the Bison to the NIT, where they lost to the Monmouth Hawks in the first round.

The Columbia Lions—the eventual champion—eliminated Norfolk State in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?

In 2011, Arizona, Northern Colorado, and Santa Clara featured, with the Bears losing both of their road games before splitting its visitors' bracket contests. Also in Vegas, the Wildcats topped the Broncos in the semifinals before falling to the Kansas Jayhawks in the championship game. Santa Clara finished fourth, dropping the consolation game to the Ohio Bobcats.

Who's Played In Other Fox Sports Events Recently?

Fox Sports took over management of both the Las Vegas Invitational and Las Vegas Classic from the creatively named "Basketball Tournaments, Inc." before the 2014-15 season. Based on this season's fields for both events, you can expect Fox Sports' two main basketball conferences—the Big East and Pac-12—to play in the pair of Vegas tourneys more regularly. For example, the Xavier Musketeers are allegedly in this event next season.

Going back to the Basketball Tournaments, Inc. days,  Sacred Heart visited Santa Clara for the 2013 Las Vegas Classic, a game the Broncos won by a 70-61 score. Northern Colorado participated in three BTI events in four seasons—the Las Vegas Classic (2008), Invitational (2010), and the now defunct South Padre Invitational (2011). Back in 2007, Vandy defeated the Utah State Aggies and Bradley Braves to claim the Texas event.

Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?

Arizona needed overtime to beat Santa Clara in the Directv Wooden Legacy quarterfinals last season—a result that foreshadowed the Wildcats' somewhat disappointing showing in that event. All the way back in 2009, the Wildcats topped the Broncos in an NIT consolation bracket game played at Georgia.

In 2015, Vanderbilt took down Norfolk State by 10 in a Barclays Center Classic preliminary game. The Commodores also defeated Bucknell in a 2011 Legends Classic contest.

Butler swept a two-year home-and-home series with Vandy in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Who Won Last Year?

The West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Richmond Spiders and San Diego State Aztecs on successive nights to claim the 2015 championship. There wasn't a true visitors' champion, as that half of the bracket used a showcase format, thanks to some scheduling issues.

Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?

West Virginia and the California Golden Bears both lost in the First Round of the NCAAs, while the Little Rock Trojans, who only played two games in this tournament (including a win at San Diego State), reached the Second. San Diego State fell in the semifinals of the NIT, while the Sam Houston State Bearkats, who also played just two games, fell to the Jackson State Tigers in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Will It Be On TV?

Fox Sports 1 will televise all four host bracket games from Las Vegas. FS1 (and maybe FS2) will also likely air both of Butler's home games. Arizona's (Pac-12 Networks) and Vanderbilt's (SEC Network) will probably end up airing on their respective leagues' networks/streaming packages.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

While Arizona will look to more easily dispose of Santa Clara this season, the Butler-Vanderbilt semifinal should be an excellent early measuring stick for both. Note that the Commodores will be playing for a new coach, as Valparaiso Crusaders legend Bryce Drew replaced Kevin Stallings, who left for the Pittsburgh Panthers.  No matter the winner, the Wildcats will be favored in a likely championship game showdown.

In the visitors' bracket, the two best teams from last season meet in one semifinal, so whoever claims the Bucknell-Norfolk State showdown has the inside track to the title.

Semifinals

Hosts: Vanderbilt over Butler; Arizona over Santa Clara
Visitors: Bucknell over Norfolk State; Northern Colorado over Sacred Heart

Finals

Hosts: Arizona over Vanderbilt (championship); Butler over Santa Clara (consolation)
Visitors: Bucknell over Northern Colorado (championship); Norfolk State over Sacred Heart (consolation)

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